Hauling horses in winter presents some season-specific challenges. With a bit of preparation and common sense, however, you can keep your horse safe and comfortable on the road.
• Blanket carefully. You want your horse to be warm for the ride without getting overheated. Maintaining balance in a moving trailer requires physical effort, which will cause a horse to generate his own heat. If he sweats under a heavy blanket, he will end up chilled and uncomfortable. A clipped horse may need a light blanket during the ride for warmth, but a horse with a full winter coat can likely make the ride without one.
• Be vigilant about ventilation. Your instinct may be to close up the trailer tight against the cold, but fresh air is critical for your horse’s health and safety. Not only can dust from hay and bedding accumulate in a stuffy trailer, but fumes from the truck can enter and build up, with deadly results. Open ceiling and wall vents and, if it’s not too cold or rainy, consider leaving a window open.
• Encourage your horse to drink lots of water. The most common cause of colic in winter months is dehydration, and during a busy day of travel it’s easy to overlook the water bucket. Offer your horse water before the trip and during any stops you make on the road---or at least every four hours. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, offer water once again.
• Check your battery. Cold weather will stress an old or weak battery and a truck that won’t start the morning of an event is a huge inconvenience. Before the cold sets in, test the strength of your car battery using a multimeter or ask at any auto repair shop or parts store---most will do it for free.
• Make sure you have the right tires. Traction tires---those with at least an eighth of an inch of tread and marked as all-weather on their sides---are recommended for winter driving. Some states require tire chains on vehicles of certain weights. Check the regulations for areas you’ll be traveling through to be sure you comply.
This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #483)